Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Duck! Incoming Wrench!

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

Is it me, or do people have major misconception about writers?

Three things immediately come to mind; 1) if one is published, he or she is rolling in cash (did I miss the memo?), 2) since he or she is rolling in dough, they can afford to give away all their books (no comment), and 3) once a person manages to finish writing a book and get it published, it’s smooth sailing from there on and he/she will live happily ever after.

The only explanation I find for these false impressions is that everyone outside the author’s immediate family and circle of friends see nothing more than the end result—the pretty book covers, the book signings, rave reviews, and the recognitions acquired along the way—not the hurdles.

I can say safely say with absolute certainty that an author’s life is more like a roller coaster ride in a car missing a couple of nuts and bolts than a walk along a perfect stretch of the beach. It gets crazy frustrating and difficult more times than not. Just when you think you’re in the know, you’re not. And when you think you have it made, you don’t. My only defense over the years has been to adopt the attitude of writing what I love without expectations. I’m sometimes mildly surprised when things go my way, but rarely disappointed. So where am I going with all of this? Sit back and let me tell you about the events of the past three months that have led me to write this post.

Around the end of May 2009, I learned that my second book, “The Devil Can Wait” won a bronze at the 2009 Independent Publishers Award (IPPY), I was amazed—always optimistic, but never expected to place, let alone win (see, no expectations—big surprise). After struggling for months with major writer's block, news of this award was just the shot in the arm I needed to get the book done. However, a week later, I received news my publisher was leaving the firm—the person who believed in me and my work. I won’t dwell on it here--now, but if you missed the post, you can read about it here. At any rate, she and I had a great working relationship so shock and disappointment doesn’t even begin to explain how I felt about the news (okay, this was one of those rare moments—caused me to do some major soul searching.)

So while I tried to wrap my brain around the good, the bad, and the really ugly about all of this, there was still the matter of my bronze medal. It was supposed to have been mailed to me by the organizers of the event who were located one state away, but I hadn't seen it yet. Weeks passed by the time I remembered to look up and ask where it was. It seems my shiny IPPY had taken a world tour without me.

Here's my story and I’m sticking to it!

I’ve never won anything of any value in my life (hubby doesn’t count) so having my second book named as one of the winners of the IPPY was well … shucks, kind of big for me. The competition—over 3,300 entries in 65 categories. The mystery/suspense thriller category alone had 120 entries. Now, I’d read the announcement and my name posted on the
2009 Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY) site, but without tangible proof, it didn’t feel real. At last, it arrived two days ago. As you can see from my IPPY's travel itinerary it’s been all over the place:

1) Presentations made in NYC at the Book Expo on May 29, 2009. I couldn't make it.

2) Following week contacted promoters -- the medal, a certificate, and seals were mailed two days before. Never arrived.

3) A week later, I contacted promoters again. Response: Oops, mailed package to the UK to my publisher who, at the time, lived in German (very confusing, I know).

4) Received word that it arrived in the UK and was on its way to Germany.

5) A couple of weeks after that, my publisher wrote to say she received it and would mail it to me ASAP. She sent me this photo to assure me it was real. :)

So ... 60 days later, 5 locations; New York, Michigan, UK, Germany, and Indiana, 3 countries; US, UK, Germany and back to the US, at the cost of around $15-$18 per mailing (not cheap shipping overseas), the package arrived at my doorstep on, July 27, 2009. :) Oh joy. I was beginning to think it was all a very cruel joke. LOL

In the meantime, I’ve had time to concentrate on my writing. The first draft of the next Sam Harper book (gads, no title yet) was completed in 2005 and is in need of some serious editing. I’ll get to it in a few weeks, but I’ve also begun to write a new character of Rhonie Lude, PI. I’ve had this story in mind for a couple of years. Once I started to work on it though, it flew—came out of nowhere so I’m thinking it’s meant to be. First draft completed in 39 days. Yay!

Oh yeah, one more thing I forgot to mention. In the middle of all this mess, my computer crashed. I have a brand new lap top now and I’m loving it!

So you see, in spite, or maybe as a result of, all the ups and downs, good things did manager to come my way. I'm holding the IPPY in my hand, I've completed the first drafts to two novels, and I have a new computer. What more could a girl want?

The thing is, if there’s a wrench in your future, you can bet life will hit you over the head with it, but the sting will linger only if you let it. No matter what though, don’t despair, don’t toss in the towel at the first sign of a set back. You just never know what tomorrow will bring.

For more about this visit:
Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense. Her books are available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on her website.

Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards
Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival
Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

Visit Sam Harper at


Unknown said...

A great blog, with so much that many of us can agree with, well at least until it comes to getting awards. That in itself is something special. I wonder if I should send my books to all these contests as I know a couple of people do. Meanwhile as they say "the best things are worth waiting for" and now your an honoured award winning author. Thanks so much for sgaring and having such a great blog

Geoff Nelder said...

Brilliant win, Marta. Congratulations - at least it shows some comp judges have a fine eye for talent.

Marta Stephens said...

Hey Barry! Great to hear from you. I've entered a few contests am always careful about the cost.

Usually you'll pay an entrance fee, you'll be asked to send one or more books, and then as in the case of the IPPY, there were other costs involved for additional advertising services. If the contests are "free" by all means, enter them all and if the award is prestigious, then yes it's worth the effort. If you win or even get mentioned it'll be worth it.

My first book, Silenced Cry, received honorable mention at the 2008 NY Book Fair and although it didn't win, my sales jumped as a result of the mention.

Just be careful about nickle and diming yourself to death.

Marta Stephens said...

Thanks Geoff! Two minutes in the spotlight and back in the trenches I go. ;()

James Goodman said...

Great blog, Marta. I have to laugh at the number of people who ask for a free book as soon as they find out you are a writer.

Roller coaster indeed and yours seems to have been put into overdrive. Hopefully it will even out a bit soon.

Congrats again on the award.

Marta Stephens said...

Hey James! You made it. :) Speaking of free books, you'll want to catch my post next Wednesday. Think you'll see a familar face. ;)

I'm feeling pretty good now that the dust has settled in my part of the world. Thanks so much for letting me share.

Sheila Deeth said...

It arrived at last! Cool. And thanks for the blog. I just want to find my way onto that rickety roller coaster then I promise I'll hold on tight (and maybe shut my eyes).

Marta Stephens said...

Holding on tight and closing your eyes will work every time!! LOL

s.w. vaughn said...

The wandering medal finally reaches its destination! :-) That is one well-traveled award. LOL

Your roller coaster analogy reminds me of something. When I was a teen, the annual field days was held in a field within walking distance of my place. We (my friends and siblings) traditionally watched the carnies and operators put up the tents and rides before the festivities started, and then we'd go and wander the field when they left, because there were always interesting things lying around.

One year after they left, we found a huge metal bolt and a few miscellaneous spare parts on the ground, right where they'd put up the Zipper (a long bar that circled around a fixed point, with cars that spun 360 degrees). I never got on the Zipper again in subsequent years, afraid it would fall apart because of the pieces they'd forgotten (and we kept).

But I've been on that metaphorical Zipper ever since I started writing. Go figure. :-)

Marta Stephens said...

So! You're the nuts and bolts culprit! Isn't it funny the things we remember when we least expect it? Your metaphorical Zipper sounds like a good writer's life analogy too. :)

Cheryl said...

Wonderful post Marta. I am so thrilled that your IPPY finally arrived. It is well deserved. Mega-congratulations! But next time, can you ask to go along for the world tour at no cost? I mean, if your award gets to travel to all those places, shouldn't you?

Seriously though, I'm excited to hear about all the writing you're doing and the new laptop. Keep up the great work. Oh, and you know, when people find out I'm a writer they get that glazed over look like a celebrity is standing in front of them, so I'll let them think I have it all if that makes them happy. It does wonders for my ego. LOL!

All my best,


Marta Stephens said...

I've asked for a world tour. Think if I painted myself with gold paint and hung a blue ribbon around my neck, I'd get one? LOL

Thanks so much for being such a good freind, Cheryl. Always great to hear from you.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Great post, Marta. Congrats on the award. Glad to hear I'm not the only one that is expected to give books away. I'm looking forward to the day when I can actually afford to do that.

Kim Smith said...

Maniacal's the curse!!! Run for your lives!! Just kidding. So glad your award finally arrived. Do me a favor? Don't write about the Devil waiting or otherwise ANY MORE!!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Marta, you had me in stitches with this. Although I know what happens in your life through our emails, I enjoyed seeing it all put together in one article to display the roller coaster that is your life.

When I was laid off, my coworkers and neighbors and anyone else who heard about it all said, "Well, now you can do your writing full time and have the life you've always wanted!" Right. Except for the salary part. LOL. I think the piddling amount we writers make is the best kept secret in the world!

Thanks for a great post!

Marta Stephens said...

Hey Joylene! Yeah, giving books away is a doubl edged sword. It's great publicity, but hurts the old pocketbook.

Kim, as I wrote this I thought about how my close friends were probably sick of hearing about all of this. Then I thought, "What the heck?" Ha! Seriously, I'll think twice before ever writing about a cursed anything again. LOL

Ha, Aaron, I knew you of all people would be able to relate. Glad it gave you a good laugh! :()

J D Webb said...

Oh those FREE BOOK requests. And don't you just love the ones who actually do get a free one from you and come running to tell you, "I just loved your book and I passed it on to three of my friends who loved it as well."
Now one lost sale blossoms into four. The kicker then comes; "When's your next one out?"
BTW Marta, thanks for having me on the blog this week. It was a blast. Do I get a Free book? LOL

Marta Stephens said...

I've been there done that, JD. I know my books have been read by 2-3 times the number of people who bought it. I gave a copy of my first book to someone who helped me with my research--glad to do that. Anyone who helps me with edits, critiques, etc., gets a complimentary book from me and my many thanks. That person gave it to a co-worker who read it and passed it on to her mother and two sisters. Five people read it--Zero sale. That's just one experience.

I don't have any problems with giving a book or two for a good cause (I'm going to blog next week about a wonderful chance for authors to participate in a couple of worthwhile book give aways). Then there are the contests. The Ippy required 2 books. One that needed to be included in with the entry fee, and one that I sent in with another $200 for them to display it at the Book Expo. When I entered a state library contest last year, I had to send them 5 books--didn't win, and now people in five libraries are reading them for free. And don't you just love it when you're at a book signing or asked to speak to a book club and they tell you they'll check the book out from the library. Now, I support our local public libraries, but ... oh well.

There are a lot of expenses involved, so I'm becoming more and more careful of the number of books I give away.

JD, feel free to send me articles to post on MB4 any time. It was great hosting you!!

Ha ha on your free book--how are your editing skills? :()!!

wrenches said...

It's all a matter of will and stubborness to deal with the wrenches life throws at you!

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